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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Madloch

Julie Dalley

This is my maternal grandmother, Constance Shuttle, née Macia, when she was a teenage girl. She is probably seventeen or eighteen here. One can see that in her youth, Constance was a bold, sassy woman. In this picture she is wearing lipstick and clearly behaving in flirty way.

Constance came from a large family. Her parents emigrated from Western Europe and they went first to Canada, and then to the U.S. She was born in Hanover, New Hampshire but spent her entire life in Vermont. As was customary in this time, she married very young. I think that this picture was taken shortly before her wedding. Unfortunately, my grandfather turned out to be an irresponsible husband and father. He was an alcoholic and died very young. Because of this, Constance was mostly left on her own, forced to fend for herself and their nine children. She did not have any way of getting education and lived in rural area, so her earning options were very limited. As a result of all this, she was extremely poor and had to rely on the state’s help for most of her life.

Needless to say, nana Constance never owned anything of real value. The only object that she cherished was her box of cheap jewelry. She got all her jewelry at yard and rummage sales, which she always enthusiastically attended. In fact, almost all her possessions came as pre-owned. I never saw her wearing anything really new or fancy.

There is no doubt that Constance had an extremely hard life and often she was forced to make difficult decisions for her family. Possibly, this affected both her character and behavior and my mother remembers her as a tough, demanding woman. My mother was Constance’s oldest daughter and they had a rather rough relationship. Strangely, my aunts and uncles remember nana Constance in a very different than my mother does. For her younger children she appeared to be a softer, more affectionate person.

This picture fits better to how I remember nana. She was a wonderful grandmother and enjoyed her grandchildren. She babysat for us and always took our side when we fought with parents. She was a wonderful cook and I particularly remember her strawberry shakes and American goulash.

Nana was a real matriarch and our glue. She died when I was eighteen and after her passing the entire family fell apart. We lost contact and I do not see most of my cousins any longer. Nevertheless, I often think how proud she would be of me. I was in college when she died, and she never saw me graduate. I think that I am so strong because of her. She taught me persistence and installed self-confidence in me. It was her who provided me with an example of a decisive, protective woman, who managed to survive in extremely dire circumstances.

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